oday is a national holiday in the US. It is Thanksgiving Day, a day when we express our gratitude for blessings we have received as a nation and individuals. So the reading I chose is from St. Luke, the cleansing of the ten lepers.
Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem and he is approached by ten men with leprosy. They don’t come too near, because they are unclean. They had to have known about him because they call out to him, “Jesus, Master, take pity on us.” That was enough and Jesus tells them to show themselves to the priests and they are made clean while on their way, while they carried out his command without question.
Only one of the ten returned to give thanks to Jesus for this gift of healing. He is so happy and grateful that he turns back, praising God aloud, throws himself down at Jesus’ feet and thanks him. Jesus, although touched by the man’s gratitude, expresses his disappointment that the other nine did not come back to share their joy and to thank him. No doubt, each of us can understand Jesus’ disappointment. Haven’t we felt the sting of ingratitude at one time or another? It is disappointing and hurtful to realize we have been kind and generous to someone and have received no acknowledgment or gratitude in return.
After Jesus expresses his disappointment, he says to the man who is a Samaritan, “Stand up and go on your way; your faith has cured you.” What could Jesus have meant? The man was already cured of his leprosy. What did his faith, expressed in gratitude, cure him of? I wonder if the Samaritan realized that this man who cured him of leprosy also regarded him with the respect due every human being, even Samaritans. I wonder if he was grateful, even for his having had leprosy, which brought him to the place where he had this encounter with Jesus and so his faith not only caused him to follow Jesus’ command “to go and show yourself to the priest,” but this faith also caused him to know his own worth as affirmed by Jesus. Although leprosy brought him to Jesus, it brought him to know something of this Jesus. Maybe this is what Jesus was telling him: that life was more than being free of leprosy, that life had meaning beyond what was obvious, that he had discovered something of worth that couldn’t be measured.
Today, we thank God for blessings which are obvious. Perhaps we are called to thank God for the blessings that come in disguise, too. Henri Nouwen encourages us to be grateful for joy and sorrow, successes and failures, rewards and rejections…all that has brought us to this moment. Leprosy brought the man to his encounter with Jesus. Whatever has led us to be closer to God is a blessing.
We thank you, loving God, for all the blessings you have given us…
the obvious and those which came to us in disguise. Amen.
From Crumbs from the Table by Sr. Louis Mary Passeri, OP